Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hastings Outdoor Market Returns...Sort Of

The Hastings market had its first outdoor showing earlier this month. Despite the cool temperatures, the flowers were out in full force.

I had the chance to visit old favorites (Breezy Hill had my favorite Honey Crisps, Chutney Masala was out) and find some new favs. First up was Big Girl Baking, whose table was literally groaning under the variety of treats.

I am usually hesitant to buy baked goods at the market...unless I can sample first, and Big Girl was really generous on the samples. So of course I picked up a loaf of olive oil tea cake (after reading a lovely recipe in the New York Times for lemon olive oil cake, I actually went out and bought all the ingredients to make it, but had been too lazy to turn on the oven). Next up was Hudson Milk Company. I am usually a non-fat Greek Yogurt person, but their yogurt from Maple Hill Creamery has made me a convert. Their flavored, whole milk yogurts are just sweet enough and so much better than any run-of-the-mill grocery store variety. I bought the lemon, and it did not disappoint. And then how could I pass up the cute offerings from Honey Locust? I snagged a bunch of young carrots for $1.50 and scallions for $1.00.

The April market got me super excited for Hastings' official outdoor season, but sadly, it does not begin until the beginning of June! But the market continues to pop up monthly, with the next date slated for May 8.
Carrot Soup with Yogurt
Using the carrots from Honey Locust and the lemon cream yogurt from Maple Hill, I did a lazy riff on the recipe for Moroccan carrot soup that was published in the April issue of Bon Appétit. By lazy, I mean I used ground cumin (rather than cumin seeds) and lemon flavored yogurt (in place of yogurt and lemon juice). Luckily, it’s hard to screw up soup! This only made 1.5 cups of soup so, for a larger batch, adjust the recipe accordingly.
Ingredients 1 t. Butter 1 Large shallot, finely chopped 4 oz. Carrots, peeled, cut into thin coins 1.5 c. Chicken broth 1 t. Cumin 1 t. Honey .25 c. (Non-sweetened) Lemon yogurt Salt and pepper Method Melt butter in small saucepan, add shallot and sauté for two minutes Add carrots, cumin and broth; bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer until tender Add honey and then puree soup using immersion blender, or in batches in standard blender, until smooth Before serving, drizzle yogurt over the soup and sprinkle with additional cumin

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beach Rental Cooking: Hilton Head Island

Just back from the beach, and boy do I have the vacation blues. I spent the past week on Hilton Head Island, and six days never went so fast. Despite it being early in the season, my visit coincided with spring break. And while the wide, sandy beaches provided plenty of space for everyone, sadly, the local restaurants did not. It seemed like hour-long waits for a table and overtaxed kitchens were the rule rather than the exception. A local pizza joint stopped answering its phone (walk-in orders welcome, 90 minute wait for a pie). So we ended up doing a lot of cooking. And discovered that while Hilton Head has a huge assortment of grocery stores (I hit the Fresh Market, Piggly Wiggly and Harris Teeter during my stay), there are really few produce stands. Maybe it was the season, but I only spotted one -- just off island before the bridge. Calling it a "stand" may be slightly generous (series of tables in a dusty parking lot?) but I gamely stopped and spent about $9 on tomatoes, red skin potatoes, green and yellow squash and a bunch of Vidalia onions (based on the conditions, I suggest skipping the "fresh local jumbo shrimp"). The challenge of beach rental cooking is to make the most of what you have, including limited ingredients and sub-standard kitchen equipment (e.g., dull knives). Since we had already purchased such staples as eggs, celery, mayo, baby spinach, feta, bow tie pasta and bruschetta topping, it was easy to turn the potatoes into potato salad, to toss roasted squash and onion with pasta, and to serve sliced tomato in sandwiches or with baked eggs.
Cooking while on vacation may not be everyone's first choice, but when you focus on simple, easy dishes, it's a heck of a lot better than fighting hunger pangs or loud patrons at the local tourist traps!
Beach Vacation Baked Eggs
If you're making breakfast for a crowd, or if your rental doesn't have large ramekins, you can also bake these in a metal muffin tin. Just reduce the quantity of ingredients slightly (don't overfill the tins) and cooking time (15 minutes or until set) accordingly.
Ingredients (for a single serving)
Cooking spray or olive oil
2 Slices of tomato
.25 C. Baby spinach leaves
1 Egg, lightly beaten
1 T. Crumbled feta
Preheat oven to 400.
Lightly grease a large ramekin or muffin tin.
Layer tomato on bottom of ramekin or tin; top with baby spinach, beaten egg and feta crumbles.
Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until egg has set.